Tales from the Khaz Modan
Tales from the Khaz Modan
--by: Shyriath Bukolos
Tale 1: Of Ke’Najrad: b2505 ASC
Kaltor stands, as he often does, upon the balcony, gazing out over the city. Of course, in such troubled times as these, perhaps it’s not the most efficient use of his energies... he could be attending Council. Going over the latest military appropriations for the Iardistan campaign. Out walking the city...
Kaltor smiles to himself. Even at his own ripe age, he still finds excuses to drive himself on. One hundred and thirteen years of life hasn’t been enough to change him completely, and the knowledge pleases him. Sighing and sitting down again upon the cushioned chair, the old man forces himself to relax, knowing his son will come if anything important comes up.
He looks out again, gazing at a city awash with light, holding the crushing dark of night away. It is not for nothing that Ke’Najrad is known as the City of a Million Stars. Although the sky cannot be seen through the city’s shimmering haze, the city itself glows so brightly that mariners, commanding the ships that hold together the great maritime empire of Khaz Modan, can see it for many miles around as they travel over the waves, needing no lighthouse to point them home.
From Kaltor’s balcony there is a commanding view of the heart of Ke’Najrad, the Great Harbor. And a harbor it is, but one so vast that an observer might easily mistake it for a small sea; its far edges lie almost as the horizon, easily seen only by the bright buildings standing there on the waterfront. In any other place, that would be a separate city over there, and yet it too is Ke’Najrad. All around the Great Harbor it stretches, even onto the two small islands that, together with the largest island of the archipelago, shelter the Harbor from the sea.
And stretched out across the Harbor itself are the ships, always multitudes of ships. Whether visiting from other parts of the Empire, or ferrying people and goods across the water; whether floating on the surface, as boats have done forever, or floating above it on the new antigrav technology produced by the Technomages, always there are the ships. Even when the sea traffic is low, there are the rafts that remain out there all year round, the multitude of platforms anchored to the Harbor’s floor and connected by bridges... serving as docks, or open-air markets, or even residences. It says much of the connection Kaltor’s people have always had with the sea, and the freedom of movement it permits.
That connection mirrors the freedom of thought, the flexibility and curiosity, that the Khaz Modanians have aspired to. Of course, others might deride such values; for instance, the barbarians of the outer provinces, stubbornly resisting the enlightenment of Imperial rule. Fearing the change which Khaz Modanian control could bring, they fight tooth and nail against lawful government, against the liberating ways that could only be theirs if they would submit. Kaltor could almost despise them for refusing such a gift... as had the Iardistanians just last year, in yet another pitiful revolt. Crushed, just like the last three times, ground into dust by the very superiority they refused to embrace.
And yet Kaltor can see it easily, from this very balcony. He turns to look at the skyline, the great towers stretching up toward the heavens. Now there, he thinks, is the epitome of the Khaz Modanian mindset. What other people would dare to reach so far upward, to dare the heights, to refuse to be bound to the crude earth? The towers, held aloft by technological might, shimmer blue and green with the glow of the energy fields that strengthen their metals and allow them to climb to such delicate heights without collapsing. That same technology gives them their shape, as well; though most of the great spires are geometric in shape, there are few sharp corners, for the nanotech vats that grew them have made the elements flow together in an almost organic manner, like some great alien life form.
Why, from here he can even see one of the great prides of the nanotech style of architecture, the vast bulk of the Imperial Library. Though not a tall, soaring building like the skyscrapers around it, the Library remains impressive in its vastness. A great black ziggurat sitting two miles inland from the northern end of the Great Harbor, it resembles nothing so much as a great tomb of ancient kings, reborn through technology. Each of its ten levels, sloping upward and inward from the one below it, is black as night and gleaming with reflected light; the low from the buildings around it give it an ethereal halo at this time of night. Set into niches in the outer walls of each level are decorative pillars, fashioned from an artificial blue quartz, cut into hexagonal profiles and polished smooth, giving them the appearance of great sparkling gems.
Kaltor smiles broadly, wrinkling his aged face. The sight of this, the greatest of all cities upon the face of Micras, cannot help but lift his spirits. His city. His father may have lost the Sword of Fire, but who needs some old relic when one can gaze on such magnificence? The sound of a clearing throat behind him causes him to wave his hand permissively. Given leave to speak, a uniformed man, resplendent in the green and gold of the Imperial Guard, steps forth, his face unseen behind a visored helmet. Bowing respectfully, he states in neutral tones, "My Lord’s son, the Prince, requests that his most glorious Father attend Council." After a moment of hesitation, the guard adds, "The Prince asked me to tell his Father that he wishes to discuss the retrieval of the Sword of Fire, and that he has invited some of the Elemental Mages in. They have a proposal."
Kaltor’s smiling face shifts into one stern and frowning. "My son should know better than to consort with their kind. Do we not have the blood of the Prophet in our veins?" He arises without waiting for a reply, for it is not the place of the guard to offer one. "Nevertheless, I will attend. Inform the Prince that I will arrive shortly."
As the guard bows once more, turns smartly, and exits the room, Kaltor sighs sadly, gazes one more time at the vista outside, and goes to find his formal robes. He wishes Niglai would give up his uncouth association with those... those SORCERERS. After all, the might of the Empire had been built on the genius of the Technomages, who warned about their trickery and meddling with arcane powers; it would be most unwise to upset such allies of the family. If Niglai keeps up this kind of behavior when he takes over my work, Kaltor thinks, it will only turn out for the worse.
Glancing at himself in the mirror, and putting on his most serious, careworn face, Kaltor Me’Jiliad, Lord of Ke’Najrad, Keeper of the Isles, and Emperor of all Khaz Modan, strides forth to the meeting, to hear once again the Mages’ silly proposal about dimensional portals.